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Customs reins-in horse smugglers

Swiss customs are moving to stem illegal horse imports Keystone Archive

Swiss customs officials have expressed concern over illegal horse imports, after charging 37 people suspected of involvement in an organised smugglers gang.

This content was published on March 1, 2002 - 16:59

The group moved at least 60 horses across unwatched borders near Basel, usually at night, according to officials.

The customs service is holding another 110 illegally imported horses at its quarantine centre in Schaffhausen, north of Zurich. Authorities said at least 61 people are implicated.

Investigators are also searching elsewhere in Switzerland for smuggled animals.

The cases have highlighted the ongoing problem of illegal horse imports in Switzerland.

Organised gangs

Weber said organised smuggling gangs were becoming more common.

Between 1996 and 1999, 25 people faced criminal proceedings after importing 62 horses from France.

"Normally they are individuals, but in this case in Basel it's possible they are a bigger group, because they all have the same systems," Weber said.

"They came over from France not far from Basel, from the Alsace, and it seems they are a little bit organized."

The customs service has now launched a media and public awareness campaign to highlight the problem.

"We are also working with the department of agriculture, because they are in charge of looking after the market [for horses]," he said.


by Jacob Greber

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